More than 160 lawmakers urge EPA to back off on renewable fuel quotas

Nov. 1, 2013
More than 160 lawmakers on Thursday pleaded with the Obama administration to relax renewable fuel quotas they say "threaten to cause economic and environmental harm."

More than 160 lawmakers on Thursday pleaded with the Obama administration to relax renewable fuel quotas they say "threaten to cause economic and environmental harm."

The bipartisan group of House members, led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., insisted that the Environmental Protection Agency must lower 2014 renewable fuel requirements to tame a volatile market for biofuel credits and keep prices down for corn, which is used to make the bulk of U.S. ethanol that fulfills the mandates today. Biofuels made from algae and other non-edible material have been slower to commercialize.

Corn market

"The U.S. corn market has been increasingly volatile since the expansion of the renewable fuel standard in 2007," the lawmakers told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "Ethanol now consumes more corn than animal agriculture, a fact directly attributable to the federal mandate."

Lawmakers in Congress have introduced a host of bills that aim to revamp the 8-year-old renewable fuel standard, ranging from modest changes to all-out repeal.

Goodlatte has sponsored a full repeal bill, and has introduced separate legislation that would eliminate an "advanced biofuels" category in the fuel standard and decrease the amount of the alternative fuels required through 2022.

Letter called misguided

That measure also effectively would reverse the EPA's decision raising the amount of ethanol permissible in regular gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.

Renewable fuel supporters said the lawmakers' letter was misguided. Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said the missive was in line with what he called oil industry scare tactics over the mandates.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, an ethanol producers trade group, said that "despite false claims that biofuels are increasing the cost of corn, those who signed this letter failed to review the facts and recognize that just yesterday, corn was trading at a 37-month low."

A widely circulated draft of the still-to-be-proposed renewable volume requirements for 2014 would set the requirements for corn-based ethanol at 13 billion gallons while lowering quotas for advanced biofuels and other categories.

But the oil industry is asking next year's number be set no higher than 12.9 billion gallons.

Copyright 2013 - Houston Chronicle

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